Family: Palmae

This genus is native to Southeast Asia and the islands of the western Pacific, with one species found in northern Queensland. It is closely related to the genus Caryota, or fishtail palm. Like Caryota, it produces a three-seeded fruit, which is rare among palms. They also flower similarly, producing an inflorescence among the top fronds, followed successively by inflorescences at lower points along the stem. The whole stem then dies. Some Arenga species are single-stemmed, which means that the whole plant dies, but most form clumps, with suckers from the base, and these take over, each in turn maturing, flowering and dying.


A. australasica, the Australian native species, has only been cultivated quite recently. It has several stems and long, erect fronds. This species grows very slowly in the initial stages to about 10 m (33 ft) tall and is suitable only for frost-free climates.

A. engleri, Formosan sugar palm, is a compact, clumping palm which grows to about 2.5 m (8 ft) tall. The hardiest of the species, it has been cultivated as an ornamental. It has fronds of crowded, deep, dull green leaflets and sprays of orange flowers, hidden among the leaves. The flowers have a very strong, sweet, spicy smell and are followed by masses of deep red fruits, the flesh of which is irritating to the skin.

A. pinnata, sugar palm or gomuti palm, will grow as far south as 35°, provided there is no frost. It acquired its common name, sugar palm, from the sugary syrup that flows from the young inflorescences when cut. It is a huge single-stemmed palm with gigantic fronds, up to almost 10 m (33 ft) long. The trunk is covered in very coarse, stiff, blackish fibers.

A. tremula, a native of the Philippines, will not tolerate cool conditions as A. engleri will. Grown well, it is a handsome palm.


In frosty Climates, grow as pot plants under warm glass in soilless compost. Outdoors, grow in well-drained soil containing plenty of organic matter. For best appearance of the fronds, they should be grown with shelter from strong wind. With bottom heat some seeds may germinate within two months, while others may take one year.


Zone 10 and above.

Areca      Argyranthemum